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Grilli will be top setup option

Pirates/MLB Videos

Friday, April 6, 2012

Throughout spring training, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle shied away from defining hard-and-fast roles for his relief pitchers. On Thursday, Hurdle finally acknowledged Jason Grilli will be the first choice for eighth-inning setup situations.

Most of the other bullpen roles are easy to define. Joel Hanrahan remains the closer. Tony Watson is the lone left-hander. Chris Resop excels in the seventh inning and also in high-leverage spots after coming out of the pen to face many bases-loaded jams last season.

Rookie Jared Hughes will be a long reliever. The righty was a starter in the minors until midway through last season, when he moved into the bullpen at Triple-A Indianapolis.

What of Evan Meek• "It's going to be interesting to see where his niche evolves," Hurdle said, adding that Meek has been effective against left-handed batters as well as righties.

Total package

Yesterday's PNC Park record crowd of 39,585 gave a rousing ovation when Andrew McCutchen came out during pregame introductions. It was McCutchen's first appearance in Pittsburgh since signing a six-year, $51.5 million contract extension.

Before the game, Pirates owner Bob Nutting said McCutchen's talent — the center fielder was an All-Star last year — wasn't the team's only motivation to offer a long-term deal.

"We really have faith in, not only the athleticism of (McCutchen), but also his character," Nutting said. "When you make a commitment of that length, especially for a team like the Pirates, you need to have a level of belief and faith in the entire person. Andrew really does bring that entire package to the table."

Swing away

The Pirates' first two batters of the game reached on singles, bringing McCutchen to the plate. Hurdle, who has a reputation for doing a lot of bunting, elected to let McCutchen swing away. He bounced into a 6-4-3 double play, and Neil Walker flied out to end the inning.

Did Hurdle think about the bunt?

"Not really," he said. "Maybe later in the game, but not in the first inning. Andrew swung well for us in the spring. Let him take a swing."

Around the horn

Reliever Juan Cruz switched his uniform number to 37. He wore 77 in spring training. ... The Pirates have 11 players returning from last year's Opening Day roster. That doesn't include Charlie Morton, who is on the disabled list. ... The average age of the Pirates' Opening Day roster is 28.4 years. Last season, it was 27.6. ... It was just the 29th time the Pirates have opened the season in Pittsburgh. They've played 97 openers on the road. ... Army Ranger Jeremy Feldbusch, who was injured during a tour of duty in Iraq, threw the ceremonial first pitch. Feldbusch, a Pitt grad, represented the Wounded Warriors Project.

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